Alternate Option
Thoughts from me.
Saturday, August 27, 2005 3:41 am
Apple’s FireWire 800 neglect
10 years ago FireWire was a joke. Vapourware from Apple’s famous labs. Later on, it replaced SCSI and is now a standard across all Macintoshes. There have been setbacks to its adoption though. FireWire was the standard by which iPods (21M sold and counting) transferred data and charged—but Apple changed its mind on that recently… And the Wintel machines started to include FW ports only relatively recently, and only after USB 2 became standard.

Today, FireWire is still an important standard—just about every digital camcorder utilises FW.

However, FireWire 800, introduced 2 years ago, is a lame duck. Despite being potentially twice as fast, FW800 languishes on some of the “Pro” set of Apple’s machines. Virtually no other computer maker has adopted the new FW800 port. Finding a FW400 hub is hard enough; a FW800 hub is non-existent. In fact FW800 peripherals (in general external hard disk enclosures) attract a premium compared to FW400 versions.

The logical reason is FW800 is currently marketed as a “Pro” feature—i.e. a feature that makes the Apple “Pro” products more attractive. This is bad for the FW800 technology. Compare this behaviour with Apple’s adoption of BlueTooth 2.0, 802.11g and USB 2. These replaced the previous generation technology. And the different shapes of the FW400 and FW800 ports shouldn’t make a difference either: After all USB 1.1. replaced Apple’s serial ports, DVI ports has replaced VGA.

If Apple wanted to promote the FW800 technology, it would only have to phase out the physical FW400 port, and use FW800 ports across its product line. Particularly on the Apple machines that have a single FW port—the Mac mini, the iMac, iBook and 12“ PowerBook. Bundle a separate male 800 to female 400 converter with every one of these machines to allow backwards compatibility for FW400 cables and peripherals.

FW400 was made obsolete 2 years ago. Unfortunately Apple’s refusal to let it go is hindering the adoption of FW800.

[posted with ecto]

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